of the Dead
is the day we shuffle around, barely aware of our surroundings.
Often we run on autopilot, with much of our activity divorced
from its meaning, but somehow we keep on going. And at least
90% of those of us stuck in this loop are not flesh-eating
Shaun (Simon Pegg), hero of Shaun of the Dead, that
ratio shifts a lot faster than he can keep track. In fact,
for at least the first twenty minutes, not even the audience
can quite tell who's what. Did that homeless guy eat a pigeon
out of desperation, or was it some unfathomable post-mortem
reflex? The comparison of daily life with daily unlife has
been made before in zombie movies, most effectively by George
A. Romero, but never has it been so funny while still being
so disturbingly believable.
some level, it's also heartening to know that being a slacker
is universal. We thought we were just lazy Americans. Pegg
has created a character that should have left his college
days behind long ago, yet can't find the ambition to really
stand up and be a man. Shaun even still lives with his college
roommate, Ed (Nick Frost), a shiftless tubby guy who was
probably fun at high school parties.
one has noticed (or at least accepted) that they're nearing
thirty - nor do they notice when the streets of their London
suburb become strangely empty. As long as they still have
their videogames, ice cream and ale, all is well. Never
mind that Shaun has to obliviously step through offscreen
viscera to get it.
course, characters in such movies have to change or die,
but the new wrinkle that Pegg and his co-writer, director
Edgar Wright, have added is that Shaun of the Dead
works perfectly well as romantic comedy. This zombie apocalypse
happens to fall on Shaun's anniversary weekend with Liz
(Kate Ashfield), so he has to make it up to her that he
missed their special dinner without becoming special dinner
comedy arises naturally out of the characters. Unless you
consider the rising of the dead random, everything occurs
naturally and in consequence of earlier scenes. Though certain
characters' sense of denial may be funny, it's also completely
and his other survivors also try the one thing I've always
wondered about: acting like zombies themselves in order
to get through a crowd. Admit it; if you watch zombie movies
at all, you've wondered, too.
funny as it is, Shaun of the Dead doesn't shy away
from horrific or even tender moments. People get ripped
apart. In one brief scene, zombie children gleefully gnaw
away at the innards of a local rummy.
recent movies like the Dawn
of the Dead remake and Resident
Evil have been effectively entertaining, they lacked
this underlying sense of creepiness.
did they allow us empathy for the zombies. Here, the first
one we see, dubbed Mary, has a sense of sorrow to her, confused
and hurt about her new state of being before turning on
Shaun and Ed to feast on their flesh.
or dead, these characters remain human, and their problems
remain so, too. Shaun has a terrible relationship with his
stepfather Philip (Bill Nighy) that not even death and undeath
can fully resolve. As fun as the title character may be
to hang around with, too, you have to admit that his girlfriend
has a point about his need to grow up and take responsibility.
and Wright are fresh voices to most of America (they're
popular in England, largely for a series called Spaced),
and we should welcome them. Romero liked them so much that
he let them wangle themselves cameos in his next zombie
movie, Land of the Dead. Hopefully, their future
careers here will be full of life.